Killie 2 Saints 1 - League Table Here
Team : Main, Mackay, Grainger, Morris, Garters, Ando, Millar,
Davidson, Hardie, Sammy, Swankie
Subs: Smith, Caff, Craig, Sheerinho, Deuchar, Reynolds, May
So another Saturday and another chance to get some more points on the board. Despite the good performances in recent weeks and the (gasp, shock, horror) plaudits from the press, the solitary win in the league so far this season had come courtesy of a performance at Hamilton that was so dire it would be worthy of a European League performance by our so-called elite (and without the laugh element). Our opponents today were a Killie side for whom the word consistency is rarely used in the same paragraph. They've had a poor season so far and arguably this was a chance for us to rack up some points. On the negative side we weren't lacking in injury doubts and Rugby Park has never been a great hunting ground for us (Gary Bollan and Euro qualifying goals notwithstanding).
For all the praise we were given last weekend there were still some doubts over aspects of our play - the way the goals were conceded, the ability of the players to last ninety minutes, and sticking out like the sore thumb, the continued inability for the boys to take their chances in front of goal. There was no doubt that there would be plenty of gilt-edged opportunities presented to the boys today - the question was whether or not we'd capitalise on them and give us a nice comfortable win, or whether it would be another night sulking in front of the X-Factor bemoaning Murray Davidson's heading abilities.
Ninety minutes later and that question was answered as we all settle down for a sulk after what had to be one of the worst performances in ages - at least when we lost to Hibs and United there was a bit of entertainment and fight. Today it was just a comedy of errors and while Murray Davidson will escape some of the slagging, Alan Main has to take the blame for at least one of the goals with yet again a wee wander out of his box punished by the opposition. We just can't get away with that stuff these days. As for the rest of the side they barely conjured up a shot on goal (not that Killie were much better) with a lack of movement on the park through the middle and almost no support for Sammy who again ploughed a lone furrow up front.
Del said he'd settle for a scrappy win - frankly it seems to me we at least look better when we go all out to attack the other side. As it was today we let our heads go down after losing two pathetic goals - that's just not good enough in this league.
The injury worries had shown about as much sign of clearing as the Old Firm had of backing Scottish football. Savo's continued ankle problem had all but ruled him out earlier in the week while Smiffy and Rustybitz had seen their comeback blighted by couple of "training ground knocks" (Del already ordering extra supplies of cotton wool for the training for the midweek CIS game). Add to that a Hardie knock (well what do you expect when you're stamped on) had curtailed his training this week although he recovered for his 100th appearance. Filipe Morais was the other main doubt after his shoulder injury and he missed out. On the plus side both the Doc and Peaso had scored in a closed doors game on Tuesday and looked set to take part although it was still too early for Mooner to return to the side, and on the day Del opted to rest Peaso - whether that was a good decision or not remains to be seen
The 4-5-1 formation adopted last time out had seen Sammy operating solo up front. Pre-match, Del had said he'd settle for the sort of scrappy win that got us the points at New Douglas Park three weeks ago. His tactics for today saw the same formation with an unchanged lineup starting and only one change on the bench as Sheerinho came in for Morais. Killie had plenty of unfamiliar faces to us but the lanky figure of Kevin Kyle was up front - and by God we were set to hate his face by the end of the game.
The match started with a wet pitch and plenty of rain threatening for the rest of the afternoon. Whether that dampened out any promise of good football remains unanswered but it certainly didn't help with both sides taking on the appearance of the Keystone Kops in a banana factory at times as they skidded all over the place. It almost started promisingly as within ninety seconds Sammy had broken down the wing and cut inside but his shot was blocked and Swankie's follow-up went out for a corner which was nicely wasted. Davidson won a freekick on the left next and Danny's ball into the box found Garters but as per SFA Referee's Association Rulebook Clause 4, Paragraph 5 (2009 revision) the referee gave a foul against the Saints defender. For all that it seemed we were playing ok as Killie struggled to match us in midfield, instead settling for kicking us off the park. Millar was fouled next and the resulting freekick cleared while a rare Swankie cross (he wasn't at his most majestic best unfortunately today) was easily cleared.
The first Killie chance came in the seventh minute with Kyle dropping like the proverbial sack of spuds under a challenge from Ando. The freekick was chipped in for Kyle with the end result a header going over the bar although he'd already been ruled offside. Basically though the game was as bad as the Accies match with Saints generally slow and looking off the pace while Killie were a poor side. Hardie on the left wing was contributing the sum total of hee-haw and while Mackay and Swankie were having more luck and room on the other flank the final delivery was woeful. Swankie had a decent run in the 12th minute laying the ball inside for Chris Millar but his weak shot was easily held. Another Swankie run and a deep cross ended up at Hardie's feet a minute later but he turned and his shot went over the bar with Brown in the home goal looking about as bothered as a Romanian keeper at Ibrox.
Saints play was fine in the middle of the park with some good one-touch passing but after stringing together about eight passes in the 15th minute the ball ended up with a Mackay cross for Jody (the smallest man on the park) who headed over the bar. There was just little or no creativity in the side with Morris and Davidson not providing enough supply for Sammy up front who was being marked out of the game. At least Murray was there to support the defence with a Killie cross in the 20th minute taking the combined efforts of Ando, Garters and Murray before the latter headed the ball back to the keeper.
Sammy had a shot held and Mackay saw a cross easily cleared as we tried to find an opening with another decent move in the 24th minute saw Hardie win his only header of the day to set up Danny and his run into the box ended in a cross for Sammy but his shot went wide. The game was generally scrappy - Bryson should have been booked for a blatant dive in the Saints box under a challenge from Millar and then Davidson became the first (and only) Saints player to be booked for a late challenge. That freekick ended up in a decent header in the box but Main at least gathered the follow-up.
As the half wore on, Saints were being pinned back more and more with Sammy left up at the centre circle on his tod. There was sod all by the way of goalscoring chances. Swankie had a break in the 39th minute but again he failed to beat the full- back and the cross was a weak one. Sammy had a good run before slipping on his arse. Finally though with three minutes to go we managed to actually force a shot with Swankie cutting in from the right and letting rip but for all the power, Brown managed to palm the ball clear comfortably. Mackay followed up crossing from the right for Hardie but his shot went wide.
It seemed to spark us into some semblance of life and a minute later Ando went on a run through the middle setting up Sammy who broke down the right and crossed for Davidson but his header was cleared. Killie managed to finish the half winning a corner after Hardie gave away a freekick. That was eventually cleared but the half ended with Salmon sending a cross out and behind the goal - the sort of attempted finish that summed up the game.
If we'd hoped for the sides to show some impetus at the start of the second period that was soon killed off. Ando missed a header within a minute of the restart but Main managed to gather. At the other end a throw-in into the box was cleared but at the expense of a bloody nose for Jody after he walked into the elbow of Bryson. Two minutes later that didn't matter much with Killie pressing. Ando was left down injured after clearing a chance and after the game played on, Killie won a corner before he could get treatment. The corner was cleared but not enough and the ball came down the right channel into the box for an unmarked Kyle. Main came out off his line with no hope whatsoever of reaching the ball and Kyle headed the ball past him into the empty net. A shocking goal to lose.
That knocked us back a bit and the large Saints support were almost stunned into silence. We tried to break back with Davidson setting up Millar but his cross was a poor one. Kyle picked up the other booking for dissent after he had been caught offside - of course given his mouthing off to the referee after the card was shown it's a pity he didn't get a second. Ten minutes into the half and we almost lost a second. Millar and Ando were both skinned on the wing and a cross in from the Killie left found Kyle but at least Main managed to block the header.
The game had, almost amazingly, become an even more scrappier affair than we saw in the first half and more worryingly we were looking a lot poorer, failing to win 50-50 balls and still not getting forward enough, especially on the wings. Come the hour mark we at least managed to win a corner after Davidson's header from a long Ando ball was headed behind. Unfortunately it was comedy of errors time with Danny and Swankie trying to be smart and play a quick one-two short corner only for Grainger to be caught offside in a nasty echo of last weekend's game. The midfield was far too tight as well and the likes of Davidson were starting to run out of pace as well as ideas.
Swankie tried a hopefully high cross in the 63rd minute for Hardie but again Brown showed himself to be a capable keeper. Unfortunately the same couldn't be said for Alan Main and a minute later it was embarrassing moment time. Expect to see this one shown on TV in the Xmas blooper reels as a simple Killie break down the left saw Saints back defending. For some reason Main decided to come out of his box and try and clear the danger. Now anyone remembering the cup-tie against the Forces of Darkness last season as well as the kicking skills of our keeper can possibly anticipate what happened next. One sclaffed clearance later, the ball was squared to Kyle and from 30 yards out he lobbed the ball (half-sclaffed it himself actually) into the empty net. Total fucking embarrassment - the sort of idiotic antics that are costing us too many goals.
After that it was really game over. Saints were all over the place. Within a few minutes the Doc and Sheerinho were on for Swankie and Hardie to try and salvage something but it took about ten minutes before he even got a touch on the ball. Killie had a decent break in the 70th minute and Grainger saved the day with a good tackle. Another run two minutes later ended in a cross that Main held much to the relief of the Saints support. Saints though were just out of ideas and with Killie comfortable on a two-goal lead the game was pretty much dead. There was still the odd bit of fight in the players. Garters did well to get back and block a Salmon shot in the 82nd minute.
Del made his final change a minute later with Stephen Reynolds handed a rare opportunity as Murray went off. Sammy had a good run a couple of minutes later but managed to slip in the box - it was that sort of day. Millar fired in a cross that Deuchar managed to head on for Sheerinho but the keeper came out to gather. Deuchar saw a cross wasted a minute from the end as we threw everything forward before the last minute of normal time saw a Millar cross for Garters put out for a corner. Grainger fired in the inswinger and it was met by Fraser Wright at the near post who powered home a great header into his own net to give us some hope. But four minutes of injury time wasn't enough with the only real chance coming from a long ball from Grainger that Reynolds did well to header into the Killie box in space between Sammy and Deuchar but neither could get to it in time.
It was a rotten performance on a rotten afternoon with a poor crowd - 500-plus Saints fans contributed to a crowd of just over 4,000 but really the play on the park didn't help to generate much of an atmosphere. We were simply crap. Main cost us at least one goal and his positioning has to be questioned for the first - whether or not this will be the time to give Smith an opportunity remains to be seen but serious questions have to be asked as to his ability to perform at this level. That doesn't excuse the rest of the team - too many key players under-performed today and the one-man up front routine didn't pay off especially with the likes of Hardie and Swankie providing about as much support as Nick Griffin got on Question Time. Defensively we looked like we'd be okay but again we were stretched too easily - as for Man of the Match, forget it.
We really need to get our act together for midweek. The fans deserve a hell of a lot more fight from their players - too many go into hiding too easily. Things need to improve or else the rot will really set in.
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